In late October MarketingSherpa published a chart from their 2012 Website Optimization Benchmark Report, highlighting average conversion rates broken down by industry.
B2B search marketers certainly obsess about conversion metrics and this chart does well to provide broad expectation for success, from an industry perspective. That said, the associated article does a good job identifying important considerations in addition to just benchmark information.
- How do you define conversion?
- How do you use benchmark data?
For this article, I want to look deeper into the improvement of conversion rates for the B2B website. The two questions above are starting points.
Here are five recommendations for B2B search engine marketers who seek to improve conversion rates and leverage benchmark data.
1. Develop Multiple Conversion Opportunities
The first striking thing about the MarketingSherpa chart was the type of conversions B2B marketers were tracking. For example, it would be much easier to have a high conversion rate for an email newsletter or free research than a sales-ready evaluation request.
To give your B2B SEO program a chance to prove investment, tracking multiple conversion types, broken down by sales readiness (see next recommendation) is essential.
Some of the types of conversions we recommend to clients include:
- Sales Evaluations and Demo Requests
- White Paper and Premium Content Requests
- Subscriptions Requiring Email Information (Newsletters, Offers, etc)
- Views on Content Assets (Videos, PDF Downloads, etc)
With this in mind, different conversion rates and overall volume per conversion type should be expected. Sales ready conversions will often have lower conversion rates than more informational/research oriented conversion types.
A somewhat generalized client example:
2. Integrate a Lead Scoring System
Earlier this year I wrote about the importance for B2B SEO professionals to lead in the development of a lead scoring initiative. This is even more critical when faced with the pressure of increasing leads and maintaining an acceptable conversion rate benchmark.
“Lead scoring is the process of creating a point structure for various demographic, firmographic, and behavioral attributes, such as job title, company size and industry, and email address type (free like Gmail or business-specific). Prospects with scores that meet or exceed a set total are passed along to the sales team for action. The rest are kept in the B2B marketing lead nurturing funnel, or disregarded if they don’t meet a minimum score.”
A lead scoring system augments a B2B search marketer’s ability to benchmark and validate the effectiveness of multiple conversion types. B2B SEOs become better able to set expectations for conversion rates (by type), and more closely track and attribute sales and revenue to lead generation initiatives.
3. Consider A/B Testing Platforms
A/B or split testing provides B2B search engine marketers with a way to test various web page elements in an effort to determine the best mix of factors that lead to conversion. Simple changes to layout, text information, color, and images can all lead to improvements on conversion rates.
A platform most B2B SEOs should be aware of is Google Content Experiments (formerly known as Google Website Optimizer). Google Content Experiments is a free testing platform integrated directly into Google Analytics. Fellow SEW contributor Nick Eubanks just wrote an awesome starter guide on this platform, which includes step-by-step instructions, and advice and recommendations for traffic acquisition and analysis.
An alternative to Google Content Experiments worth considering is Optimizely, a commercial A/B testing platform which provides an easy-to-use interface and controls for creating testing experiments. The platform has a fairly low cost entry point and multiple tiers of pricing based on volume.
4. Evaluate Web Traffic Reporting Metrics
If conversion rate percentages fall short of industry benchmarks and expectations, B2B search engine marketers should consider additional web traffic measurements when validating performance, in comparison to other website traffic channels (like direct traffic and third party referral).
Consider the following web traffic metric comparisons:
- Conversion rate in comparison to other traffic sources.
- Page views per visit.
- Average time on site.
- Bounce rate and exit rates.
Industry benchmarks cover a broad range of conversion types and situations (budgets, business objectives, market size, etc.). Search engine-specific conversion rates need to be compared against the industry and also the additional traffic channels marketing dollars are being invested in.
5. Focus on Internal Business Results
Lastly, try not to get too obsessed if your B2B website’s conversion rates are not up to par with industry averages but your marketing team is hitting appropriate business goals. Maintaining or exceeding industry averages in conversion rate means nothing if those leads fail to close business.
When pressure does mount for increasing rates, try to do so in a manner that incorporates the first four recommendations above. In doing so, your B2B SEO program should be better equipped to drive more comprehensive lead opportunities, and ultimately, long-term business value.
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